The Many Faces of  . . .  Dig Dug

by Alan Hewston 

We continue our 20th anniversary salute to games released in 1982 with Dig Dug, an arcade game with a wide range of fan appeal, particularly from the fairer gender.  Let’s see, its cute, cartoon-like, very colorful with some pastels, you are free to move anywhere you want and you won’t get dirty while playing in this dirt. Oh and let’s not forget the violence is funny - watching poor Pooka & Fygar get blown up – literally until they pop!  Just like the maze game Pac-Man in ’80, Namco brought us Dig Dug in ’82 but this time changed the rules.  Who needs walls – why not let the player make their own maze path.  This was really cool, not to mention how simple the game was and thus easy to learn.  You could play for several minutes on one Quarter, but it always got hard enough that you’d lose.  Then you think “This is easy, it’s not Rocket Science. I gotta try that again”.  OK well, maybe we could call it Rock Science :-) 

See MFof in RT # 56 for the very similar Mr. Do!.  Although coming out independently the same year, and a bit more complex, it has a lot in common at its roots.   The bad guys chase you through a maze that you create.  After a while they get tired and turn into ghosts, exit the tunnels and head straight for you.  The bonus prizes showed up in the middle of the screen, and you could dig underneath rocks (apples) and drop them on the bad guys - splat.  You should already know how to play Dig Dug, drop at least 2 rocks, collect the prize, then use your air pump (what a weapon!) or drop rocks to vanquish the remaining Fygars & Pookas.  Three consecutive pumps and watch them explode!

Dig Dug, sans the AP2, which I won NIB on ebay, but I still have not received.

 Arcade: by Namco 1982

Home Versions: all but 7800 & INTV by Atari/Atarisoft.
Coleco (‘84, Larry Clague), C64 (‘83, Michael Reno), Intellivision (’83 David Warhol, INTV)
1983:  Vic 20, 2600, 5200, Atari 8 bit, TI-99.  1987: 7800 (General Computer Corp –for Atari),
Unknown year:  Apple II.
Artwork by:  Gus Allen      
Sequels:  Dig Dug II 1985 Namco 
Home Version Similarities.

All versions have: all arcade bonus prizes, a variety of unique rounds/screens - enemy & rock placement; the screens (play field) colors vary from round to round; the final enemy runs away to the top left; and the score, number of lives remaining are displayed on the screen.  Except for those in ( ), all home versions; display the round number - most using flowers (2600); keep track of the high score (Vic 20, C64, 2600, 5200 & 7800); a pause (2600 & Vic 20); bonus lives (CV? & TI-99?); the enemies speed up at some point (TI-99); display points for vanquished enemies (2600 & Vic 20); and the bonus vegetable last for about 15 seconds (AP2, C64).  In only a few versions: must the rocks be held upwards or fall instantly (C64, Vic 20 & TI-99); there are several choices for the starting round (5200, C64, Atari 8-bit, TI-99 & CV); and for these versions, (2600, 5200 & 7800) there is a demo, plus a continuation option & a child version.  One of the most important elements of the gameplay is that you move slower when digging.  Unfortunately this has not been accounted for on most versions - but hurrah for the 7800 & C64, and 2600 (sort of) which did this right.  Music:  Although the sound effects are pretty much all there on every version, some of the musical pieces are missing.  I’ve named these as follows: “I” Intro, “D” During play, “T” Tense when they speed up, “C” Chase when the final enemy is running away and “E” Ending music for the round.  Most versions only have the music play when Dig Dug is in motion, or shortly thereafter. 

Have Nots:  Vic 20 (31)
This fairly common cart eluded me for quite a while. My first reaction was how poorly the Intro music is looped and choppy.  The Gameplay is OK (6), but hurt mostly by the small 10X11playfield, and also the fewest enemies (max 6) and slow movement by Dig Dug (up/down).  There are no starting round options, but of note is that the rocks are correctly done here.  That is, if you do not continue to push/point up, the rock will fall once it is dislodged.  All but 3 versions did not code this feature, but since it is not essential to the gameplay, I did not add or subtract points either way. Addictiveness is very good (7) enough to make any Vic 20 fan happy, but there is no pause.  Somewhat annoying are the ghosts, who can pop in without warning, one spot from where they should.  This makes the game more challenging than it should be.  Graphics are acceptable (5), and with only 5 different objects, Fygar, Pooka, Dig Dug, rocks and the prizes you can easily tell what is what.  The Sound is blah (5), with limited sound effects and the music is not too elegant - also missing the T & C.  Controls are well done (9), but I had just a little trouble – so I wouldn’t call them perfect. 

Have Nots: Intellivision (37)
My first reaction was the wide playfield - 18X10 high, but still satisfactory.  The Gameplay is all there (7) and complete, but the addition of a starting round option would have help.  A slight nuisance is that part of the playfield looks playable, but is not.  This “fake dirt” can be costly if you do not realize you are digging into ground that cannot be dug.  The 5200 has a similar false edge, but it is a little easier to make out the difference on the screen.   All other versions you can tell at a glance what is NOT part of the playfield - so learn where the dirt stops here.  Addictiveness is enjoyable (8), complete with the usual INTY pause.  Not counted in the scoring, but you’ll also get a little more mileage out of this particular cart, which has a hidden game “Deadly Dogs”, (see Digital Press Guide to activate this Easter egg) which is a combination of the game “Tron Deadly Discs” using the Dogs from “Burgertime” (both with origins in ‘82).  The Graphics are very good (7) but also small due to the wide playfield. Sound is all there (8) and among the best.  Controls are very good (7), but are insufficient for this non-stop pump and run game.  This is the hardest released version to find.

Have Nots:  Atari 2600 (39)
My first reaction was excitement that Atari packed in a demo and a child’s version.  The Gameplay is complete (7), and besides the C64 & 7800 is the only other version where digging is slower than moving.  The child’s option is nice, but it’s hard to make up for that small 11X10 playfield.  The round number is never displayed, but you can “continue” your next game making the Addictiveness enjoyable (8) when you can practice those harder rounds.  To “continue”, press the fire button before the “Game Over” disappears, and start on that round with 3 lives, but of course, no points scored.  The remaining versions with continuation also work this way.  There is no pause.  The Graphics are good enough (6), to enjoy the game, no problems, but little to no details either.  Sound is all there (8) in effects and music, but a little weaker than the medal winners.  Controls are perfect (10). 

Have Nots:  TI-99/4 (40)
My first reaction was that the final ghost/enemy was pretty lame.  Runs off and you cannot pump him in ghost form and does not actually leave the screen.  The Gameplay is impressive (8) with seven starting rounds to choose from and an adequate sized 15X9 playfield.  There are no drawbacks, although I may have been too generous as I was unable to determine if there were bonus lives or all the bonus prizes included.  It is one of only three versions where rocks must be held in place.  Addictiveness is enjoyable (8) with a pause wisely chosen as the <space bar>.  Graphics are a little different than the others, but still cool (7) and do not detract.  Sound is effective (7), but missing music T & C.  The wailing sound often in conjunction with enemies getting ready to become ghosts was fairly annoying and plays almost non-stop.  Controls are perfect (10), using the converter and an Atari style stick. 

Have Nots:  Apple II (40)
My first reaction was that it really has more music & sound effects than I expected. The Gameplay is all there (7), but does not appear to have any options and no continuation (possibly my version is not working properly). The 17X9 playfield is a bit off, but sufficient.  The game speed only barely speeds up when one plays too long in a round.  A little too much time (20 seconds) is given to reach the bonus prizes.  Addictiveness is enjoyable (8) and the pause is the <ESC> key.  Graphics are detailed (8) but like the INTY, too tiny to give it any better score.  Sound is very nice (8) only missing music C.  Controls are well done (9), but the analog sticks promote more mistakes, plus the fire button programming requires the button be repressed each time and cannot be held.  The usual joystick or keyboard option can be helpful.  As usual, the AP2 version is only available on disk.   

Have Nots:  Commodore 64 (42)
My first reaction was shock at how much music is missing (all but D & T).  The Gameplay is impressive (8) with one of only two perfect 14X14 play fields - allowing for possible exact matches of arcade rounds.  A bit too much time (20 seconds) is given to reach the bonus prizes.  There is no child’s version or demo, but options for 10 starting rounds is cool.  Perhaps an overkill is that up to 9 (the most on any system) enemies can be on-screen, slowing the action too much. Thus the Addictiveness is very fun (8) but it could be better if not so slow.  The pause is the <space bar> but there is no continuation.  Graphics are fantastic (9), with loads of detail.  Sound is very good (7) with nice effects, but the missing music essentially costs it a share of a medal.  Without music, the “ghosting” sound is thrown in, and thus heard too often.  Controls are perfect (10).  This version is found on both cart and disk from Atarisoft, and also on disk from Thunder Mountain and Datasoft.  I do not have all versions, but Mat Allen says they are pretty much the same. 

Bronze Medal: Colecovision (43)
My first reaction was to agree with Sean Kelly (Digital Press).  If Atarisoft had finished it, this baby may have been the best.  I could disqualify it, since it was never officially released, but then it is now available in cart, and probably ROM format for those who want to play it.  The Gameplay is impressive (8) and complete.  I gave it a little slack knowing that it was not polished - such as no apparent bonus lives, no “real” demo and a shortened 14X8 playfield.  But there is a choice of 3 difficulties er uh starting levels combined.  Obviously they couldn’t make up their mind so they gave a mix with 5, 4 & 3 lives when starting at rounds 1, 3 & 5 respectfully.  But there is no actual difficulty change in any option.  Addictiveness is very fun (8) but I didn’t add a point for the pause <*>.  When using a non-CV controller, you cannot pause.  A shame since the second controller can still start a game, but nothing else.  Is it unfinished or short-sighted programming?  Graphics are wonderful (9), maybe the best, with loads of color and detail, especially the inflation and bursting sequences.  Sound is nice (8) only missing one part of the music.  Controls are perfect (10) using Atari controllers.  Never officially released - too bad. 

Bronze Medal:  Atari 5200 (43)
My first reaction was that there was nothing missing or wrong - so it should earn a medal.  Upon closer examination there is some play field that almost looks like the annoying “fake dirt”.  But this is not too bad and otherwise, the game only lacks the right controller.  The Gameplay is impressive (8) and possibly the best.  The 14X13 playfield is almost enough to make exact matches with the layout of the arcade rounds.  All the options are here, 12 different starting rounds, the child’s version (easier difficulty) and a demo.  Addictiveness is outstanding (9) with a pause <pause>, and continuation of the game that may keep you coming back more than any other.  Graphics are sharp (8), just a wee bit simplified.  Sound is well done (9) with the best sound effects and every piece of music included properly. Controls are super (9), but even with the Wico sticks occasionally fail to be perfect.   

Silver Medal: Atari 8 bit (44)
My first reaction was how lame this game was.  Fortunately there was a revised/upgraded version.  The initial release was sad but fortunately is harder to find.  The first version and then revised version was released on both on cart and disk.  Digital Press calls the revision the “Dig It! Player Update”.  There is also the 5200 version made for the Atari 8 bit, which is probably the best of the 3, and what I used to score this system.  This only works on the 400/800.  It gets the same scores and comments above as the 5200, but then add in a perfect (10) for Controls.  The first version would be scored (7,6,7,6,10 = 36).  There’s no pause, no Galaxian starting round or prize, no kid’s version, a 13X9 playfield, no continuation, all with some very annoying sound and effects.  The enemies look like green goblins.  If you have this version, just look, but do not touch. 

Gold Medal: Atari 7800 (45)
My first reaction was frustration since the 7800 should be capable of including everything.  There was no starting round option, but the Gameplay is still very impressive (8).  The continuation allows you to practice the harder rounds and there is the child’s version as well as the perfect 14X14 playfield.  The Addictiveness is fantastic (9), and nothing will turn you away.  The pause is <pause>.  Graphics are superb (9) with plenty of color, detail and animation.  The Sound is wonderful (9) with the best effects and very complete music.  Controls are perfect (10) using a 2600 stick.  Now if they only would have made a simultaneous two-player version . . . 

Acknowledgments:  Thanks to those who directly or indirectly help me in my reviews.  The Giant list of classic programmers, KLOV, Digital Press Guide, and Yesterdayland  80’s.  Also special thanks this month for help from several folks, and I may have missed someone too.  Andrew Tonkin who sent me FREE from Australia a spare Vic 20 cart to complete my classic collection.  Andrew has been a good fan of my column for quite a while and is also a Vic 20 enthusiast.  Sorry that it did not score so well, but he made sure that it was not left out.  Also Ron Corcoran, & Steve Knox, for the Atari 8 bit details, especially since my cart was no good and I only had 2 of the 3 disk versions. Mat Allen verified the different C64 multiple releases.  Finally Sean Kelly for the CV cart, a gem for the CV collection.

[ Home ] [ Comic Headquarters ] [ Video Game Headquarters ] [ Comic Ads ] [ Video Game Ads ] [ Comic Covers ] [ Tabloid ]
[Comics For Sale] [
Video Games For Sale ]  [ Retrogaming Times ] [ Bit Age Times ] [ Just Newsprint ] [ What's New ]
Tomorrow's Heroes
© Tom Zjaba 1997 - 2015      

Want to advertise on this site?  Click here!
Want to link to this site?  Click here!